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Posts tagged ‘Dennis Van Roekel’

NEA Members Improve Student Success, Strengthen Education

CEA President Sheila Cohen addressed nearly 9,000 delegates at the NEA RA last week, thanking them for their support

CEA President Sheila Cohen addressed the nearly 9,000 delegates at the NEA RA last week, thanking them for their support in the wake of the Sandy Hook tragedy.

Nearly 9,000 educators from around the country have made their combined voices heard on behalf of students and public education. NEA members came together for the 151st Annual Meeting and 92nd Representative Assembly (RA) in Atlanta, Georgia, and gave their thoughtful consideration during 12-hour days to 93 new business items, and numerous constitutional bylaws and resolutions.

Delegates approved a $3 annual dues increase that will, in part, go toward providing $6 million in grants to NEA state and local affiliates. The grants, a piece of NEA’s new Raise Your Hand campaign, will support innovative projects and best practices to boost student learning.

NEA President Dennis Van Roekel told delegates, “Our country has no shortage of people with ideas about how schools need to change. It seems that anyone can call themselves an ‘education reformer’—no experience necessary. If we are going to take charge of our own professions, we must move beyond the old debate that has been defined by others. It is time for us to transform public education by taking charge of our own profession.”

NEA Secretary Treasurer Becky Pringle told fellow educators, “Raise your hand if you’re tired of others thinking they know what’s best for our students. It is time to reclaim our profession, our schools, and public education.”

Moments that claimed the spotlight at this year’s RA included the heroism of two Michigan delegates who helped to save the life of a man who fell onto subway tracks during rush hour, and a celebration of Kathleen Roberts, a 98-year-old Massachusetts delegate who has been attending NEA’s Representative Assembly since 1950.

Delegates also took time out to remember the victims of the Sandy Hook school shooting. CEA President Sheila Cohen thanked the thousands of  teachers on behalf of all Connecticut educators.

“Thank you from our very depths for your immediate offers to help and your immediate sentiments of hope, for your emotional outpouring of sympathy and for your generous outpouring of financial support,” she said. “Thank you for your snowflakes, for your crisis and grief management teams, for your lit candles, and for your teddy bears.”

On Saturday, CEA delegates were very moved to find handwritten notes on their seats from members of the Texas delegation in recognition of the Newtown tragedy. Delegates from around the country showed their caring and generosity with contributions to the CEA Sandy Hook Memorial and Scholarship Fund.

All gifts to the Sandy Hook Memorial and Scholarship Fund will go toward scholarships at the University of Connecticut and the creation of a bronze sculpture memorializing the heroism and sacrifice that occurred at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Read more about the Fund here.

Obama Likely to Address Early Education Tonight

President Obama Photo by Robert Couse-Baker.

President Obama may introduce a new early-childhood education proposal in his State of Union speech tonight. Photo by Robert Couse-Baker via Flickr.

President Obama will give his State of the Union address at 9:00 tonight, and Education Week and The Huffington Post are reporting he is likely to announce an investment in early-childhood education. Education Week reporter Alyson Klein writes, “Advocates are expecting some sort of policy proposal, even though the president isn’t likely to have a lot of new money for a big, new initiative.”

Quality early education is one of the priorities that NEA President Dennis Van Roekel has asked President Obama to address. In a letter he sent President Obama Friday, Van Roekel outlined policy priorities he hopes the president will focus on in his State of the Union speech. These priority areas also include affordable higher education, measures to prevent gun violence and ensure school and campus safety, and continued economic recovery, bolstered by increased investments in education and other programs that spur economic growth.

Van Roekel wrote,

NEA members, who live and work in almost every community in this great nation, share the optimism, yet lingering concern, of most Americans. Our members still see the impact of the troubled economy as their students continue to come to school hungry, sick or in need of counseling and other services. We try every day to mitigate the isolation and depression that so many students feel due to bullying, cultural and language differences within their schools, difficult family environments, and more. We see parents every day who worry about whether their jobs are secure and how they will afford to send their children—our students—to college.

Will you be watching the State of the Union tonight? What do you think President Obama should address?

Educators Support Laws to Prevent Gun Violence

The National Education Association (NEA) today released the results of a poll of its members, showing educators support laws to prevent gun violence.

“The senseless tragedy in Newtown was a tipping point and galvanization for action,” said NEA President Dennis Van Roekel. “As educators, we have grieved too long and too often—for the children killed, their families and heroic educators. Now more than ever we need to do what is necessary, including enacting stronger laws to prevent gun violence, to make sure every child in our nation’s public schools has a safe and secure learning environment.”

Key Findings:

  • Educators overwhelmingly support stronger laws to prevent gun violence.  Nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of NEA members polled feel gun laws in the U.S. should be made stricter, compared to 7 percent who believe they should be less strict.
  •  NEA members polled support background checks and bans on assault weapons and high capacity magazine clips.
  • 90 percent of NEA members favor a proposal to require background checks before people can buy guns at gun shows or from other private sellers, including 85 percent who strongly back this proposal.
  • 76 percent of NEA members support a proposal to ban the sale and possession of military-style semi-automatic assault weapons to everyone except the police and military, including 70 percent who strongly favor this proposal.
  • 69 percent of NEA members back a proposal to ban the sale and possession of high capacity magazine clips, which allow some guns to shoot more than 10 bullets before they need to be reloaded, including 64 percent who strongly support this proposal.
  • America’s educators resoundingly reject the notion of arming school employees.  Only 22 percent of NEA members polled favor a proposal to allow teachers and other school employees to receive firearms training and allow them to carry firearms in schools, while 68 percent oppose this proposal (including 61 percent who strongly oppose it.)

Click here to view NEA’s recommendations to Vice President Biden’s task force on preventing gun violence.

President Obama is scheduled to publicly announce his gun-safety proposals with the new recommendations from the task force tomorrow at 11:45 a.m.

Teachers Honored as Unsung Heroes: Hundreds grieve for victims of mass shooting

Teachers and community members gathered tonight in Waterbury to pay tribute to the students and educators lost in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.

Teachers and community members gathered tonight in Waterbury to pay tribute to the students and educators lost in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.

Waterbury teacher George Flaherty Jr.  fought tears as he sat beside his eight-year-old daughter Margaret in a Waterbury church tonight praying for the victims of last week’s mass shooting at Newtown’s Sandy Hook Elementary School. “I am a teacher. I’m a parent. This could happen to any of us.”

Flaherty was joined by nearly 1500 people at tonight’s Mass at The Basilica of the Immaculate Conception where 26 candles bearing the names of the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting lit the altar.

Father Dennis Connell spoke of the tragedy and senselessness of the deaths of 20 children and six adults at the school. He explained that the purpose of tonight’s Mass was to honor the educators who made heroic efforts to protect their students. “They made a difference to the very last moment.” Referring to the man who gunned down the victims, Father Connell said, “Educators ran toward him, not away, trying to stop him.”

Leake, Van Roekel, Egan

From left, CEA Vice President Jeff Leake, NEA President Dennis Van Roekel, and Waterbury Teachers Association President Kevin Egan enter the basilica to pay their respects.

Kevin Egan, the president of the Waterbury Teachers Association, thanked the church community and the city’s mayor for providing tonight’s “opportunity to grieve and pay tribute to our fallen colleagues.”

NEA President Dennis Van Roekel traveled from Washington to join the service. He said that “last week’s shootings established in our minds that it can happen anywhere.”

Speaking of the victims, he said, “We can best honor their memory as a society by making sure we confront the cause of this head on. The best way, and perhaps the only way to prove that we can make this work, is by coming together—educators, parents, and all citizens of conscience—and doing whatever it takes to protect our children.”

Twenty-six candles bearing the names of the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting lit the altar.

During the service, 26 candles bearing the names of the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting lit the altar.

Van Roekel added, “We owe it to the students who lost their lives Friday and we owe it to the educators who died putting themselves in harm’s way trying to stop evil from falling on their students.”

Waterbury Mayor Neil M. O’Leary told the teachers assembled in the church tonight that they are “unsung heroes.” He continued, “We must learn to listen more to teachers and administrators, since they are in the trenches. It amazes me how many decisions are made without teacher input.”

O’Leary continued, “We have turned into a society of taking things for granted. I say we should never take our children’s education for granted, and we should support our teachers and give them the resources they need to teach our children, instead of putting all our emphasis on test scores.”